Jeremy McBride prepares opinion on Georgian “foreign agent” law

20 May 2024

Jeremy McBride has prepared an opinion on Georgia’s new Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, adopted on 14 May, for the Expert Council on NGO law, a body of the Conference of International non-governmental organisations of the Council of Europe. The opinion examines all the provisions in the Law and their implications especially for organisations of the civil society. It considers inter alia that:

  • the purported retrospective inclusion of income received before the legislation would enter into force is clearly arbitrary in that those entities affected could not escape the obligation to register even if thereafter the income received from foreign sources became less significant;
  • there are many provisions that impose requirements to disclose personal data that have no conceivable link with the supposed objectives of the law regarding transparency of funding from foreign powers;
  • the provisions aim at establishing a monitoring mechanism which would be very extensive in its scope, affecting all civil society organisations, and be unnecessarily intrusive in its range and frequency;
  • the intended provisions for the imposition of penalties are manifestly excessive for a regulatory measure.

The opinion further states that this legislation would necessarily lead to the stigmatisation of the entities concerned by making the assertion that they are pursuing the interest of a foreign power simply because of the source of some of their income. It concludes that “There is, therefore, no justification for this law that would be consistent with European and international standards.”